Undocumented Mother of Army Members Anxiously Awaits Her Green Card

Imelda Castillo and husband Artemio Sales (Photo via Diario de México)

On Nov. 8, 2016, the night of the United States’ presidential election, Mexican mother Imelda Castillo went to bed certain that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would win.

She says that her heart broke when she saw the results on the news the next morning. The native of Calipan, Puebla, was terrified for herself and for her five children, who were born in New York City. Imelda pictured herself separated from her family, whom she raised alone despite economic hardship and her undocumented status.

“That day, I knew that Trump would fulfill each one of his threats,” said the 44-year-old mother, who lives on Staten Island. “When Trump talks about immigrants, he refers to Mexicans and Latinos. He forgets that there are also immigrants from Eastern Europe, Asia and Slovenia, like his wife, Melania. The president persecutes Mexicans and Latinos for our skin color as if it was a hunt.”

Imelda migrated to the United States in 1991 after crossing the border in Tijuana. She arrived with her first husband, who later abandoned her with her small children. Since then, she has fought to live a dignified life with her family.

“I have cleaned houses to put food on the table. I learned to sew and made curtains and quilts to sell with my friends and neighbors. I taught myself to knit Amigurumi [Japanese] dolls, and I figured out how to sell them online without knowing how to use a computer. I have fought so hard for my family, and I would like Trump to know about these efforts,” said Imelda. “Just like I do, many other undocumented parents dedicate their life to their families. We work to exhaustion. We are not criminals; we haven’t come here to do harm.”

‘My children serve the country’

Imelda believes that she has an even more powerful reason to ask President Trump to halt his immigration policies. Her two oldest children are members of the U.S. armed forces.

Imelda’s 24-year-old daughter is a U.S. Army sergeant serving in Georgia. Her son, 21, belongs to the U.S. Marine Corps and is currently stationed in North Carolina.

“I raised my children with deep patriotic and civic sentiments. It is yet another example of how wrong Trump is about Mexican and Latino families,” she said. “My children serve the country as U.S. citizens. They are my pride and the pride of their community. That is the part of the story Trump does not want to see.”

Now, Imelda is afraid of deportation, even though she is in the process of regularizing her status thanks to an immigration relief approved by President Barack Obama in 2013 that would allow her to obtain permanent residency.

The law benefits close relatives of people serving in the armed forces and of war veterans. The recourse was widely promoted in the last few years by activists because the immigrant community was not making use of it.

Imelda Castillo and husband Artemio Sales (Photo via Diario de México)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was unable to provide exact figures showing how many people have submitted the I-130 form in New York City or how many people have been able to obtain permanent residency through their relatives serving in the military.

“My attorney has informed me that the process may take between six months and a year, and that makes me feel unsafe. Immigration laws are changing radically under the Trump administration. It is constant uncertainty,” said Imelda. “I still have young children who need me. Ever since Trump won the election, I have felt anxious, nervous and fearful. Many families feel the same.”

Imelda admitted that, in just one month of the Trump administration, she has experienced what she never did in the 26 years she has lived in the U.S.

“I do not have memory of persecution of Latino immigrants as tough as the one we have seen in recent days. I think that I have never felt this anguished and vulnerable. It’s as if we were the target. It’s too hard to live like this,” she said.

A new life under Trump

Imelda married her second husband – Artemio Sales, also from Puebla – three years ago. The couple said that their lives have changed drastically since Trump took office on Jan. 20.

“I don’t drive my van anymore for fear of being detained. I now have a wife waiting for me at home and a family that needs me. Every time I leave my house, I make the sign of the cross and pray to God to let me return home. You are not safe anymore. Now anything is an excuse to arrest you,” said Sales, 41. “It is so sad, everything we have to live through as immigrants. We hope that the president will have compassion and that he remembers that his family was immigrant too.”

According to documents made public by the Scottish pro-independence newspaper The National, Mary Anne MacLeod, Trump’s mother, migrated to the U.S. in 1930, when she was 17, in the hope of finding a job cleaning houses somewhere in the United States.

“Many immigrant mothers have done the same for their families,” said Sales.

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